#30: Yan Fan – How a Bootcamp Grad is teaching Syrian Refugees How to Code

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Born in China and raised in the U.S., Yan Fan knows that her coding skills are a superpower she can apply in any industry or role. Yan started out working as a commodities trader on Wall Street. Several years later, she discovered her other passion – coding. After completing a coding bootcamp, Hack Reactor, Yan became a UI engineer at a big data startup called Ayasdi. This experience led her to join forces with ReBootKAMP, a nonprofit organization in the Middle East focused on teaching Syrian refugees and women how to code.


Years in Tech 2
Grew Up China
Current Job Bootcamp Founder
Date Recorded 6/26/2016

Key Points:

  • Find a mentor to help you get started with coding, to show you best practices, to speed up your learning process and to help you avoid black holes that make many people want to quit.
  • You can find a mentor by joining meetups or getting involved in the tech startup space.
  • Passion is something you can’t stop thinking about. But learning something that you’re interested in keeps you up to speed.
  • Use your network to your fullest extent when doing the job search. Leverage the power of referrals. Your LinkedIn network is a good way to start.
  • Don’t get into tech because everyone else is getting into tech. Be strategic. You don’t have to like coding but you can learn how to code because it’s a very useful skill.

Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):

[00:54] Born in China, raised in Seattle, studying economics in college on the East Coast, working at a commodities trading company but shortly realizing she hated her job

[03:44] Realizing her weakness of not having any hard skills and seeing tech as a driver for whatever industry she’d end up with in the future

[05:17] How Yan first broke into tech when she met this guy at a poker game in Singapore and ended up joining a Startup Weekend hackathon and finally deciding to learn how to code

[06:47] Resources to get qualified in bootcamps: Codecademy + mentoring

[09:11] Yan’s process of finding a mentor: Meetups and getting involved in the tech startup space in Singapore

[10:31] Yan’s interview process at Fullstack Academy versus Hack Reactor

[11:36] The actual boot camp experience at Hack Reactor: The good, the bad, and the ugly

[13:39] How Yan describes Hack Reactor lectures versus college lectures

[15:34] Why Yan created a fake LinkedIn profile of the most stereotypical white guy name and face she can think of

[17:05] The job search process – Quality versus quantity + Referrals

[19:39] Getting through the interview process

[20:35] Yan’s first job at Ayasdi: How she got it and a day-to-day look into her job

[28:05] About ReBootKAMP: A nonprofit in the Middle East teaching people how to code (50% Syrian refugees and 50% Jordanians / also 50% women) in partnership with Hack Reactor’s Reactor Core

The Lightning Round

Imagine you were dropped into the middle of the city and you had to start all over again with only $100. What would you do and what resources would you use to get to the point where you are now?

  • Attend all those free meetups for free food and save that $500.

Throughout the process, if you ran into any frustrations, what one piece of music, videos, or  blogs kept you going?

  • Beyonce’s Run This World
  • Blogs: Reddit, Y Combinator, Hacker News, EGO

What is the one piece of advice you would want someone to know who’s considering starting on this journey?

  • Don’t get into tech because everyone else is getting into tech. Be strategic. You don’t have to like coding but you can learn how to code because it’s a very useful skill.

What is the one thing you fundamentally believed in that you’ve changed your mind after the process?

  • Yan had an inkling of what tech would be like considering that it’s similar to finance in some ways.

Contact Information:

Yan Fan
Email: theyanfan@gmail.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yanfan

Learning Resources

Hack Reactor
Startup Weekend
Fullstack Academy of Code
Y Combinator blog
Hacker News
EGO tech blog
Khan Academy
Girls Who Code
Harvard ‘s CS50

Yan’s fake LinkedIn profile

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